Saying “no” to gossip can bring rejection

Imagine you are 10 years old and your typical family dinner consists of complaining: if it’s not the neighbors, it’s the government, somebody’s boss, the economy, etc.  It feels like we’re always getting “the short end of the stick,” being wronged, ripped off, or mistreated by someone. Then there is the tidbit of hearsay about someone…
This is so customary; you’re surprised when visiting your friend Jesse Kline’s house for dinner.  They aren’t complaining, they are talking about their day, laughing, joking, and asking each other questions.  You don’t know what to say, and nervously interject with the latest: “Hey, did you hear that Jack’s dad got fired because he did some bad stuff at work?”  Pause, awkward silence.
You try again, “My dad says Jack’s father got what was coming to him, just like all those other people who think they should get a free ride.”
Mr. Kline says “Well, we should pray for Jack and his dad right now!”  As if on cue, they all bow their heads and Mr. Kline prays with a sense of caring for Jack and his family.  Weird…yet it seems right.
Over the next few years you can’t wait to be invited over to the Kline’s.  It’s like a breath of fresh air.  They are refreshingly honest, and yes, whenever anything negative about others comes up it gets stopped, and many times turns to prayer.
Fast forward 8 years: you’re away at college.  A few years back you surrendered your life to Jesus when attending a local church with the Kline’s.  Everything seemed to come together: a sense of purpose, being loved, hope for the future.  You are in a new setting looking to make friends in a new community. 
Some other students at the local church invite you to be “in community.”  You check out a small group and something unexpected happens.  It’s like you are back with your family at the dinner table.  People are gossiping about another girl in the church, complaining about things they don’t like.  You’re so uncomfortable and naturally blurt out “Hey, let’s stop right now and pray for her.”  The time with Kline’s and walking with Jesus has changed the way you respond.
However, everybody in the group looks at you as though you’re from another planet.  You just crossed a line.  One person comes up afterwards and says, “We were just sharing from our heart and this group is supposed to be safe.”  Another chimes in, “Yeah, nobody’s perfect and we try to not be judgmental of others.”  
You ask about the girl they were talking about, sheepishly saying it sounded like they were gossiping.  One person says, “Oh, she’s awesome and I really care about her, and wouldn’t say anything bad about her.  But you know…”
Then the kicker, the guy who invited you to the group says on the way out, “If you’re gonna judge, this may not be the group for you.”  You leave confused, conflicted, feeling rejected and wondering if this is what being “in community” is like.
Driving away you pray and ask God to help you.  You may not be aware but He is smiling, and proud of you.  What you know deep in your heart is true: gossip and complaining are not healthy.  You can’t go back to those old patterns and you desperately need to be in healthy community.  You ask Jesus to lead you in how to respond going forward… (to be continued)

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